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Developing a culturally sensitive mental health intervention for asylum seekers in the Netherlands: A pilot study


1 i-psy (inter-cultural psychiatry), Amsterdam; The Netherlands, Department of Education, Ben-Gurion University, Beer-Sheva, Israel,
2 i-psy (inter-cultural psychiatry), Amsterdam, The Netherlands
3 Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam; School of Medicine, Boston University, Boston

Correspondence Address:
Ortal Slobodin,
Department of Education, Ben-Gurion University, Beer-Sheva 84105

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/INTV.INTV_2_18

Introduction: This pilot study investigated asylum seekers’ needs and expectations in the mental health field to develop a culturally sensitive psychosocial intervention. Method: Participants were residents of a certain asylum-seekers centre in the Netherlands, with most of them from the Middle East crisis. Needs and expectations were identified using therapy expectations questionnaire (11 participants) and two focus groups (17 participants). Results: Participants associated mental health problems with post-migration stressors more often than with past traumatic experiences. Often, health problems were silenced due to shame, guilt, anxiety and the fear of negative stigma. Individuals and communities were limited in their ability to provide support for those suffering from psychosocial distress due to heavy stigma and the burden of multiple stressors. Conclusion: We underscore the importance of considering the local knowledge of mental health in developing emergency interventions and emphasise the need to reach beyond the trauma-focused approach to strengthen capacities within the community. Key implications for practice
  • Developing a culturally sensitive mental health intervention for asylum seekers requires local knowledge of mental health issues
  • Mental health interventions in emergencies should reach beyond the individualistic trauma-focused approach to address the whole context of forced displacement
  • Because armed conflict often leads to a disruption of the social ecology of a community, mental health interventions should build on existing local support and services and strengthen capacities within the community.


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    -  Slobodin O
    -  Ghane S
    -  De Jong JT
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